If you have ever had to speak to a room full of Middle Schoolers, you know how daunting the task is. They’re the hardest age group to speak to! It’s like they have the attention span of a… well, a Middle Schooler! And if you’re boring, they’ll let you know!
Bored adults can listen to a 30-minute sermon without stealing the cute boy’s hat. They won’t go to the bathroom every five minutes, just to get out of the room. Adults sit there and respectfully smile. They’re easy! Middle Schoolers? Well, when you lose their attention it’s obvious! And once you lose them, you have to know how to get them back.
Over the years I have picked up a few stylistic tips and tricks to re-grab a middle schoolers attention. Here are a few worth trying in your next message:
1. DITCH THE MANUSCRIPT
I have never seen manuscripts work with Middle Schoolers. They may help you sound more polished, but students will pay closer attention when you’re chatting with them instead of reading to them. Script your opening and closing, but outline the rest. You’ll be able to make more eye contact, it’ll feel more conversational and in the end, and it will hold their attention much longer.
2. INVITE INTERACTION
As you talk, invite students to do more than listen. For example, when you’re going to talk about a specific word in a Bible verse, invite interaction by saying “Put your finger on this word…” When you’re going to say something profound tell them, “Write this down…” When you’re going to read a short verse, tell them “Read this out loud with me…” Giving little prompts throughout your message will give their busy little bodies something to do besides just listening.
3. LET STUDENTS TELL THEIR STORIES
Your students love it when you tell stories about yourself, but do you know what they love even more? Stories about THEMSELVES! Let’s say you are going to introduce a topic by telling a story about a time you failed, invite students to turn to a neighbor and tell their failure stories first. After a minute of discussion, ask a student to share their story with the whole group. Then, when they are done continue on with your story.
4. DON’T GET INTO A RHYTHM
Rhythms are predictable and predictability is the first step to boredom. If your messages are always loud, or if you’re sitting the whole time, you’ve probably gotten into a predictable rhythm. Try to shake up your rhythm as you speak. Speak loudly, then softly. Sit down, and then stand up! After making them laugh, bring them to tears. (Don’t do this all at the same time, or you’ll give them whiplash!) With each unpredictable turn you regain their attention.